Telling Stories on Maps

21 steps

Penguin books is working with 6 authors to tell 6 stories in 6 weeks. The first one, The 21 Steps, is told via embedded Google Maps. Wow. What a great method of delivering stories, especially this one that follows a man around town (inspired by the classic thriller The 39 Steps).

I found this via Gawker’s excellent (and still relatively new) sci-fi blog io9. The author expands on the idea of this story-telling medium and asks “But what are the possibilities for science fiction?” He or she suggests building a a large map of science fiction spots on Google maps. Great idea. If the Entropist author or io9’s readers wanted to do this I would like to suggest the following tools to help them out.

Platial – Before Google Maps added MyMaps they were the original mashup-creator for the masses and still have some of the best community-building tools out there. I looked on Platial the only sci-fi maps on the site are devoted to bookstores not the contents of the books.

Geo-Parsers – Computers are getting better at extracting locations from text. This is for sci-fi books, right? It seems that computers have to be a apart of the process. Several companies show geo-parsing on their site and make the service available. At Where 2.0 2006 MetaCarta released Gutenkarte, a site that shows off geo-parsed classics and demonstrates the power of its geo-parser API. For the io9 readers you can check out The War of the Worlds book. (Radar post). Yahoo Pipes also makes a geo-parser available. Finally you can see Google’s geo-parser in action in their book search (see The War of the Worlds again).

Off-World Data – There’s no reason to restrict sci-fi stories to Earth. Google has released Google Moon, Google Mars, and Google Sky. Microsoft has also released the WorldWide Telescope. From the open-source side stories could be mapped on Chris Laurel’s Celestia.

Fantasy Data Maps – Many sci-fi stories take place on fictional worlds. Well those worlds can be put into a map control quite easily. For coders Microsoft’s versatile MapCruncher or the open-source Openlayers is handy. For a simple web-interface check out Yahoo’s MapMixer.

Best of luck and let me know how it turns out!